Former UCLA head coach Jim Mora spoke with NFL Draft Bible’s Zack Patraw about Gil Brandt’s remark on players who opted out during the 2020 college football season.
“The opt-outs kind of remind me of when we used to draft guys then lose them for a year to the military,” said Brandt, the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989, “Very seldom do they come back the players they were. The same principle is involved here.”
Brandt’s comment on Peter King’s Football Morning in America comes just two weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft, which will feature multiple top prospects who haven’t played football in over a year. Players like LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell could all be top ten picks, and not one of them played a snap of football in the 2020 season.
Coach Mora, who has been coaching at the college or pro level for over 30 years, disagreed with Brandt.
“Like everybody else, I have great respect for Gil, and I understand what he’s saying, but it’s different… These guys are not going off to war; they’re not going off to serve their country and put their lives in danger.”
There has been plenty of conversation around the football world about how talent evaluators will interpret a player’s decision to opt-out and not play a season of college football. Members of the football community have questioned players’ commitment and love for the game for choosing not to play in 2020.
“They’re opting out, and they’re spending a year training, and working with nutritionists, and personal trainers, and bettering their bodies and bettering themselves,” said Mora. “To the extent that they’re not getting the playtime on the field, there’s a similarity, but rather than [them] getting beat down because they’re in the military or serving our country in a war, they’re building themselves up.”
In place of the usual NFL Combine, players have been showing off their athleticism this year by attending their Pro Days. Speed, explosiveness, agility and physical measurements are all tested at these Pro Days, and players have been testing exceptionally well. While Pro Day results are not treated as gospel by the NFL community (often criticized for the use of hand-timing drills that are timed by a laser at the NFL Combine), players have shocked evaluators with results that were better than expected.
Chase ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, Sewell ran a 5.13-second 40-yard dash (at 331 lbs.), and Parsons ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, all having opted out of the season.
“They’re not developing their skill set necessarily in competition, but they’re building their bodies. I can understand what Gil’s saying, but I think there’s a pretty big difference in what it was like then and what it is like now with the opt-outs,” said Mora.
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